Mobilizing National Service Scheme (NSS) Volunteers for Tobacco Control in India
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Sambandh Health Foundation, Haryana, India
Publication date: 2021-09-02
Corresponding author
Arvind Mathur   

Sambandh Health Foundation, Haryana, India
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2021;19(Suppl 1):A279
The National Service Scheme (NSS) is an Indian Government sponsored public service scheme conducted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, aimed at developing student personalities through community service. Young people in colleges, universities and in 12th standard volunteer their services. At State-level NSS is run by state governments with each university having a NSS Coordinator under whom school and college based NSS “units” operate. Each Unit is managed by a Program Officer (PO) and has about 100 volunteers. NSS volunteers who have served NSS for at least 2 years and have performed 240 hours of work under NSS are entitled to a certificate from the University. As an existing large organization of youth focused on social service, the challenge was to motivate them to work on tobacco control activities.

The goal was not just to get a large volunteer force working on tobacco control activities, but also to protect the volunteers and their fellow students, themselves a vulnerable group, from using tobacco.

Workshops were held to sensitize NSS POs impacted by the burden tobacco users paid. They took up the “Pledge for Life – Tobacco-free Youth” campaign and they and NSS volunteers organized anti-tobacco events such as giving the pledge to students, doing street plays, rallies, poster competitions and even warning tobacco vendors not to sell near educational institutions. After a pilot starting August 2018 with three Universities in Assam, the Ministry of Youth Affairs endorsed the campaign and it has been taken to the states of Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Karnataka.

By the end of September 2019, NSS units from 540 colleges had participated and 7,312 NSS Volunteers had organized 947 events during which they sensitized more than 176,000 students.

Youth groups are a tremendous force for change. Enlisting youth groups like NSS can be a game-changer in tobacco control.

Programme and policy perspectives towards a tobacco-free generation in India: findings from a qualitative study
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